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Spring sees increased activity
in the worlds rarest turtle

Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), better known in Vietnam as the Hoan Kiem Turtle due to a 15th century legend linked to the large turtle that survives in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake. Hunting largely for local consumption during the 1970-1990's has seen the species decimated. In 2007 the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) confirmed a single animal in Dong Mo Lake, west of Hanoi, this animal represented one of only four animals of the species known in existence.

Spring and the onset of warm weather in northern Vietnam has seen increased activity in the worlds rarest turtle. As cold winter weather has ended the turtles in Dong Mo and Hoan Kiem lake have become more active and been regularly sighted. At Dong Mo a monitoring team of the ATP has successfully photographed the turtles numerous times in April and May 2014. Using photographs of the head markings on the turtles from four different occasions, including when the turtle was captured and rescued following a dam break in 2008, we have been able to confirm the animal from each photograph is the same individual. There is still a possibility that other individual of the species remain in the large 1,400 hectare lake but as time passes this seems more unlikely.

Ongoing monitoring at the lake has allowed the team to better understand the turtle behaviour while surveys throughout much of northern Vietnam have identified historic habitat where the illusive species may still survive. It is hoped that in 2015 joint surveys by the ATP, Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), Fisheries Department in Vietnam and Environmental DNA (eDNA) experts can confirm the species at additional sites. Environmental DNA is a technique where by DNA can be collected from water samples can confirm presence of a species. This would provide future options for breeding and recovery of this the worlds most endangered turtle species.


Press release: Pham Van Thong & Timothy McCormack - ATP

Date: 16th May 2014

Download the English version here

Download the Vietnamese version here vietnamese

Rafetus swinhoei at Dong Mo lake seen basking in the shallows on the 20th February 2014

Rafetus swinhoei in 26th November 2008 after being caught follow a dam break. The turtle was successfully rescued and returned to the lake

Dong Mo Rafetus swinhoei surfacing on the 3rd of April 2014


We would like to thank Auckland Zoo, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Columbus Zoo and the Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF) for supporting monitoring of Dong Mo lake and other Rafetus activities. We would also like to thank Hanoi Fisheries department and Son Tay Forest Protection Department (FPD) for their cooperation in conservation activities.

Auckland Zoo


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For more information please contact:

Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Cleveland Metoparks Zoo,
Office: Room#1301, Thanh Cong Tower, 57 Lang Ha Street,
Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam

Tel: +84 (0) 4 3514 7875

Email: info@asianturtleprogram.org



MBZ ATP would like to thanks the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund for supporting this website
Asian Turtle Program - Indo-Myanmar Conservation
Room#1806 CT1, C14 Bac Ha Building, To Huu Street, Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi, Vietnam
PO Box 46
Phone:+84 (0) 24 7302 8389
E-mail: info@asianturtleprogram.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AsianTurtleProgram

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